Africa’s greatest World Cup upsets

 Africa’s five representatives at the World Cup in Qatar will hope to write more history for the continent at the global showpiece event and prove their critics wrong after no team made the second round in Russia four years ago.

It will be a mighty challenge for all of them, but they can look to the past for occasions where Afri­can nations sprung a surprise and claimed shock results at the finals.

We look back on five of those.


It was already a surprise that Tunisia were Africa’s sole represen­tative at the 1998 World Cup after they had failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations two years before.

They went into their opener against Mexico with low expec­tations around the team, and that was re-enforced when they fell behind to a first half penalty.

But the second period was one of those occasions when every­thing just clicked and they rallied back to claim a 3-1 success, goals from centre-back Ali Kaabi, defen­sive midfielder Nejib Ghommidh and right-back Mokhtar Dhouieb handing them Africa’s first-ever World Cup victory.

They later lost 1-0 to Poland and drew 0-0 with West Germany, showing just how competitive they were, but failed to make the second round as they finished third in the pool.


West Germany were one of the pre-tournament favourites in 1982 and were expected to brush aside the Algerians, with one of their players telling the media they would score seven or eight against their north African opponents. How wrong they were!

Algeria had a superb team of footballers who were comfortable on the ball and they ran rings around the Germans with Lakhdar Belloumi giving them a second half lead.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge equal­ised for the European side, but within a minute Algerian legend Rabah Madjer had his side back in front for a lead they held to the end.

Algeria lost to Austria (0-2) and beat Chile (3-2), but the Germans and Austrians then conspired to manufacture a 1-0 win for the former that put both teams into the next round.

It became known as the Dis­grace of Gijón remains one of the worst examples of poor sports­manship in World Cup history.


When Nigeria made their debut at the 2994 World Cup, nobody outside of Lagos or Abuja believed they would top their group at the end of the first round, especially with Argentina in the pool!

But they were set on their way by a stunning 3-0 victory over Bul­garia, which to this day remains the biggest win by an African nation at the World Cup.

It was a superb Super Eagles side, brimming with talent and football intelligence. They opened their campaign in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and it was a display that showcased all their quality as they overpowered the shocked Bulgari­ans, who had the legendary Hristo Stoichkov in their team.

First half goals from Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi set Nigeria on their way, before they added a third 10 minutes after the break via Emmanuel Amunike.

With the likes of Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George and Samson Siasia pulling the strings in midfield, they were able to easily see out the game.

The Super Eagles narrowly lost their round of 16 game to eventual finalists Italy.


Cameroon fans were all colour and dance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and had plenty to celebrate as their team made it all the way to the quarterfinals before a 3-2 loss to England.

They set the tone in the opening game against Diego Maradona’s Argentina, who would go on to be runners-up in the competition.

Few expected the Indomitable Lions, with their 38-year-old striker Roger Milla, to provide any resis­tance to the silky South Americans, but their robust play and passion led to one of the most famous wins in the history of the World Cup.

It was the opening match played at the San Siro in Milan in front of 74 000 fans, and despite two red cards for André Kana-Biyik and Benjamin Massing, it was Cam­eroon who came away with the victory.

The only goal of the game was scored by François Omam-Biyik midway through the second half and Cameroon held on for a most unlikely victory.


Much like Cameroon in 1990, Senegal were given little chance as they opened the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan against holders France.

Indeed, the French were many people’s favourites to retain the trophy and had a terrific team that had evolved into a more impressive selection than the one that claimed victory on home soil four years before.

Senegal were on debut with many players from the lower leagues in France, but had fire in their bellies that day and were deserving winners thanks to Papa Bouba Diop’s goal on the half-hour mark.

As it turned out, France finished bottom of the pool and Senegal went on to reach the quarterfinals, where they lost to Turkey 1-0 having beaten Sweden the round before. —Mzansi Football

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